Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Hopi Dance

I attend church with a couple where the husband is Navajo and the wife is Hopi. The wife, has invited me to attend some of the Hopi dances in her home village of Moenkopi a few times. I don't think I realized how lucky I was until more recently. Of the 12 Hopi villages, 10 of them close all their dances to outsiders. And even the villages that allow visitors have many strict rules of behavior for visitors. No photography, no sketching, no recording. The dances are expressions of their religious and cultural beliefs and are sacred to them.
This was a velvet shirt dance. The main kachina dancers all had velvet shirts and were dressed very similiarly to the kachina above. There were lots of tall feathers on the top of the head and around the back of the head. There were roughly 30 of them all dressed very much alike and with the same head, different jewel toned shirts. In addition, there were intermittent visits by several other singular kachinas. Some came to give support to the group, whose dance and song were a prayer for rain, fertility and good crops. Each of the visiting kachinas had different and interesting masks. Some had yucca whips to chastise those that they thought needed chastising.
In addition there were about 8 clowns. These clowns did not wear the head pieces that the kachinas wore. They did not wear shirts, but their entire bodies were painted with a yellow substance and then they had black markings on their face. Clowns I have seen previously were black and white striped painted. The clowns job is to act out, in amusing ways, all the bad behaviors they see in the village as a funny, but visual reprimand. They were pretend smoking a giant joint, drinking, eating in a greedy way. Later in the day, the kachinas will come and punish them for their bad behaviour by piling them up and pouring water on them.
There were also some boys dressed as "girls". They also had the kachina heads. They were "bad girls" who chased men by themselves and simulated sex acts. Then they give the men fruit. Apparently it is quite embarrasing and shameful for them to be caught and they run from them. A Hopi mom, spouse or girl friend can take their arm and protect them from these "girls". The girls are supposed to represent fertility, but it is considered used in a wasteful way instead of fertility being bestowed on  their crops.
Some of this I knew. Some of it I got from asking questions after we left the dance. It has made me want to find out more.
The kachinas and the clowns give out gifts of food all during the dances. Lots of food. One of the folks told us that the women have to cook for a week before a dance to provide all the food. It is a mark of honor to be given a gift by a kachina. It is meant that you are considered virtuous or good. The first time I went, my friend had arranged for me to recieve a gift from one. I felt very touched and honored.
I so wish I could have take photos. It was really interesting to watch. The dances take place in a dirt "plaza" of the village. According to my friend, where you sit is prescribed. Her family always sits in this certain area. We also found out after the fact, that it is considered disrepecful to have an umbrella up or a hat on when the kachinas come out. They are praying for good weather for the crops and it is considered bad luck or like you are asking somthing contrary to the weather provided if you do that. Unfortunately, we wore hats while we were attending. I felt bad later to find out it was disrespectful.  I am looking forward to learning more and attending again in the future.


Cynthia said...

That is fascinating.

The White Silk Purse (Dana) said...

Amazing. Your are fortunate to have a friend who honors you with such an experience. Thank you for telling of it.

Anonymous said...

Thats pretty true ,,,cause i am from moenkopi myself n hopi,